Saturday, March 26, 2016


Berlin News to Know February 2nd

BERLIN NEWS TO KNOW February 2, 2016
This communication is put together and distributed on a volunteer basis by resident Corinne Stridsberg simply in an effort to share information and build community, it is not from the town of Berlin.
Please share this with your Berlin friends and neighbors.  If you're not already receiving this news directly by email, send an email to request this to
For current news look for "BerlinVermont" on facebook for a constant flow of information.  You don't need to be a facebook user to access it, but if you do use facebook, be sure to "Like" it:

For historical news look for "BerlinVermont Memories" on facebook.
The Town Report went to the printers last week and will be ready to distribute about mid February in time to send a copy home to each of the families who have a child at Berlin Elementary School before they are out on their vacation.  Others will be able to pick them up at the Town office.

The next quarterly tax payment is due Wednesday, February 17th

Kohls is scheduled to open on February 28th

Below you will find:


International Crepe Day - Free crepes all day Tuesday, February 2nd at the Skinny Pancake.  You can ask for a Nutella, pooh bear, or pure simple crepe.  City Center in Montpelier, Tuesday hours 8am - 8pm
The Development Review Board meets today, Tuesday, February 2nd 7pm at the Town Office.  On the agenda is a request for a permit for a project on Junction Road.
Dog licenses are the law across the state.  The Towns keep a portion of the fee and the state gets the rest for rabies control and to go toward state subsidies to spay or neuter animals.  Having your dog registered can also help reunite your dog with you.
Animal license 2016
On or before April 1st the fee to have your dog licensed is
$9 for spayed / neutered dogs
$11 for unspayed / unneutered
Please make sure we have a current rabies vaccination for your animal.
After April 1st: $13 for spayed / neutered dogs and $17 for unspayed / unneutered
The increase this year is due to an increase of the State spay/neuter surcharge
Vermont PBS, nine minute video on Berlin Pond
A job fair will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 5 at University of Vermont Health Network-Central Vermont Medical Center, or CVMC.
The job fair is open to anyone in the community interested in the health care industry.
Recruiters and managers will be on hand to answer questions about the wide variety of career opportunities available at the medical center.
Cover letters and resumes are encouraged.
The event will be held in conference rooms 1 and 2 on the lower level of the hospital at CVMC’s main campus located at 130 Fisher Road in Berlin.
For more information, visit
Please stop by the Town Clerk's Office for an Early / Absentee Ballot.  You can also call 229-9298 and request one be mailed to you.  If you're not yet a registered voter, you can fill out a form in the Town Clerk's office or ask to have one mailed to you. 
It's also now possible to register to vote on line:
The second Saturday of every month there will be a children's clothing exchange at the Capital City Grange on Route 12 in Berlin 9:30-11:30am Bring what you can, take what you need for newborns through a Junior 12. Please bring clean and gently used items.
Pub 1/23/16 Times Argus by David Delcore
BERLIN — Thanks to a growing Grand List, Town Administrator Dana Hadley is cautiously predicting the municipal portion of the town’s tax rate could drop by more than 2 cents during the coming fiscal year.
Hadley’s estimate assumes voters approve the $2.75 million spending plan that was adopted by the Select Board earlier this week, as well as more than $310,000 in special funding requests that will join the board’s budget request on this year’s Town Meeting Day ballot.
Fueled by construction of a new Kohl’s department store at the Berlin Mall and recent redevelopment along the Barre-Montpelier Road, Hadley is projecting the Grand List — a figure equal to 1 percent of the value of all taxable property in town — will increase by roughly $5 million before the tax rate is set in July.
If Hadley’s estimate is in the ballpark, the municipal portion of the local tax rate would drop from 46.3 cents to 44 cents per $100 in assessed property value.
Though Hadley is confident there will be a significant spike in the Grand List, he said if it were to remain unchanged the spending requests that will be reflected on the ballot the board will finalize when it meets on Monday would trigger a 1.3-cent rate hike.
That translates into paying an extra $13 for every $100,000 of taxable value, or a $26 increase in property taxes for the owner of a home assessed at $200,000.
Most of that increase can be traced to the $2.75 million general fund budget and an associated capital fund that were adopted by the board this week. The combined requests call for spending about $164,000 more than the $2.6 million budget voters approved a year ago, an increase of 6.3 percent.
The vast majority of that increase — more than $133,000 — is reflected in a proposed capital budget that contemplates the acquisition of a new truck for the highway department.
The proposed increased in the town’s operating budget is a little less than $31,000, or about 1.2 percent.
The board is banking on a $96,000 increase in revenue — including $125,000 in proceeds from the loan for the $165,000 truck — to largely offset the increased expenses. Once the revenues are applied, the net increase is roughly $56,000, or 2.85 percent.
The gap between the cost of operating the local police department and maintaining and upgrading town roads continues to narrow, under the budget proposed by the board. This year’s budget calls for spending approximately $912,000 on the police department and $996,000 on town highways. However, due largely to a 3 percent pay raise negotiated with the police union, the cost of that department is expected to climb to $938,500 during the coming fiscal year, while the cost of running the highway department is projected to drop to $973,000.
Hadley said payroll savings associated with turnover on the highway crew, coupled with the shedding of a $45,000 loan payment and projected fuel savings are largely responsible for what amounts to a $23,000 reduction in the proposed highway budget.
In addition to the budget request, voters will be asked to approve more than $310,000 in special funding requests — the combined requests are more than $34,000 higher than the amount voters approved a year ago.
Although the Berlin Volunteer Fire Department’s $245,000 request is responsible for most of the total, it accounts for only $3,000 of the requested increase. Most of the increase — more than $28,000 — is tied to the Kellogg-Hubbard Library’s renewed request for funding from Berlin. In what some residents view as a troubling trend, voters rejected a similar request from the Montpelier-based library last year and the year before that. Thanks to a successful petition drive, they will get another chance on Town Meeting Day.
Pub 1/22/16 Times Argus by David Delcore
BERLIN — A Select Board that isn’t completely sold on the idea has decided to give voters the chance to approve a 1 percent sales tax in business-friendly Berlin.
Following a pair of public hearings during which the proposed local options tax was predictably panned by some from the business community, the board set the stage for a March 1 vote by agreeing to include the question on this year’s Town Meeting Day ballot.
Wednesday’s decision was anything but enthusiastic and capped a brief discussion that saw the lawyer for the town’s largest taxpayer renew his client’s objection to a tax he feared might make the Berlin Mall less attractive to both shoppers and prospective tenants.
“The town is running the risk of killing the goose that lays the golden egg,” Charles Storrow said, suggesting that at a time when Vermont malls are competing with tax-free New Hampshire and shopping on the Internet is becoming increasingly popular, “one more disincentive” in the form of an optional sales tax wasn’t helpful.
“We would respectfully request that you not do this,” he said speaking on behalf of the mall’s owners.
And then the board did, though Selectman Brad Towne stressed his support for the ballot question proposed by board member Jeremy Hansen shouldn’t be viewed as an endorsement.
“I can’t say I’m really in favor of it,” Towne said of the proposed tax that would add 1 percent to the state’s 6 percent sales tax.
“I think if I were going to vote on it (Hansen’s motion) I would vote on it just to get it before the voters,” he added.
Selectman Pete Kelley said he felt the same way.
“Let’s put it out there and let the people decide,” he said. “Technically, that’s sort of our job isn’t it?”
With the exception of perhaps a dozen people who spoke at one of two public hearings — including the one held prior to the board’s regular meeting Monday — Kelley said he had received surprisingly little feedback involving an alternative tax that could be a source of new revenue for the town.
According to Hansen’s conservative estimates, a 1 percent sales tax could net the town $420,000 in new revenue — money the ballot question that was ultimately approved by the board suggests would be used to “lower local property taxes.”
There’s irony there, because both Towne and Kelley openly questioned whether — at least in the short term — that would be the most prudent use of a revenue windfall.
In a conversation that was prompted by Chairman Ture Nelson, Towne said his preference would be to see at least some of the new money dedicated to infrastructure improvements. Kelley went further, suggesting the board should consider paying off existing debt, knocking off some paving projects, and making major equipment purchases before simply “getting the money and giving it away” in the form of a significant rate reduction.
“I think to put it to (reduce) property taxes right off the bat is the least efficient use of the money possible,” he said.
In a perfect world Kelley said the board would have the flexibility to pay off what it owes and deal with looming projects and equipment purchases before funneling new money directly into the General Fund.
“If it’s my money that’s what I would do with it,” he said.
Nelson wondered whether there might be a middle ground between the strategy suggested by Kelley and the ballot language proposed by Hansen.
“The way it’s worded right now, we’re giving everybody a piece of cake,” he said. “Instead of giving them a piece of cake could we give them a cookie or a cracker?”
Nelson said the idea of using some of the option tax revenue for property tax relief and some to make targeted improvements might be preferable to the “bring the town up to snuff” and then share the wealth concept outlined by Kelley.
“The concern (with that approach) is …we pay down the loans and we do the roads and then when we’re at the point where we think we’re caught up, we don’t stop,” he said.
Hansen said he believed the language he proposed would give the board the flexibility it needed to make “necessary and reasonable adjustments to the budget” while using local option tax revenue to lower the municipal portion of the property tax.
“We’re not going to go on a shopping spree,” he said.
The $420,000 revenue estimate that has been used by Hansen is believed to be a conservative number and should swell with next month’s opening of a Kohl’s department store at the mall. Even if it doesn’t, in a town where every penny on the tax rate raises roughly $50,000, the town’s 70 percent share of $600,000 in projected sales tax revenue would trim roughly 8.5 cents from a municipal tax rate that currently stands at 47.6-cents-per-$100-assessed property value.
That translates to $85 in annual savings for every $100,000 of assessed property value and, Nelson noted, a potential $12,000 decrease in the tax bill for the multi-million-dollar mall.
Storrow wasn’t swayed.
“Why mess with a good thing,” he said.
The board ultimately backed the ballot language proposed by Hansen, though if Kelley is right it won’t matter much.
“I don’t think it’s going to pass,” he predicted.
History is on Kelley’s side because the last time a local option tax was on the ballot in Berlin it was rejected by nearly a three-to-one margin. The 121-351 vote in March 2001 didn’t end discussion of a local tax, though plans to warn a Town Meeting Day vote in 2005 were scrapped after voters in Barre and Montpelier easily defeated a proposed 1 percent tax on sales, rooms, meals and alcohol in November 2004.
The idea has been revived again and following a soft show of support for a non-binding question at town meeting last year, Hansen and members of the town’s recently reconstituted economic development committee have recommended the local tax.
Pub 1/27/16 Times Argus by David Delcore
BERLIN — An unexpected wrinkle involving the process for approving a local sales tax in Berlin could prompt the Select Board to abort plans to pop that question on Town Meeting Day.
The issue, which surfaced during a special board meeting on Monday, turned what should have been a formality — approving the warning for the March 1 elections — into an information-gathering assignment for Town Administrator Dana Hadley.
One of the questions that Hadley was asked to answer before the board regroups later today, is whether members’ strong preference to have the tax question decided by Australian ballot is, for lack of a better term, a local option.
Based on Hadley’s research, it doesn’t appear to be. At least not if the board wants voters to decide the matter on March 1.
That’s the word from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, which, Hadley said, essentially affirmed Town Clerk Rosemary Morse’s decision to include the local option tax question on the short list of articles that voters still decide during what little remains of Berlin’s traditional town meeting.
Though Berlin voters have long used Australian ballot to settle local elections and approve funding requests from an assortment of nonprofit agencies, and more recently agreed to adopt municipal and school budgets in the same fashion, they have specifically refused to completely abandon the traditional floor votes.
Some questions, like bond issues, and amendments to zoning bylaws and to municipal charters, are required by state law to be decided by Australian ballot, but in Berlin voters have reserved the right consider all other “public questions” ­— even if that only involves electing a moderator or deciding when property tax payments should be due — on the floor of town meeting.
In 2009, Berlin voters who attended town meeting handily rejected, 14-78, an article to decide all “public questions” by Australian ballot.
That has been Morse’s understanding, so when she prepared the Town Meeting Day warning for the board’s approval she included the local option tax question, as well as the Capital City Grange’s request for a 10-year tax exemption, on the list of items to be decide by those who attend town meeting this year.
“All ‘public questions’ should be voted from the floor,” Morse explained Tuesday. “(The local option tax proposal) is a ‘public question.’”
Morse said she could not explain why a broader package of public option taxes were rejected, 121-351, during a Town Meeting Day vote that was conducted by Australian ballot in 2001.
“That was before my time,” she said, suggesting it was probably fortunate the tax was rejected because the adoption process was flawed.
The Select Board had hoped to attract a broader cross section of the community than typically turns out for what has become a watered down town meeting to weigh in the renewed request for a 1 percent sales tax.
On Monday, members asked Hadley to determine whether the Australian ballot was a possibility either on or after Town Meeting Day before they finalized the warning.
And here’s where the board could have a decision to make: While it appears clear the current proposal would have to be decided on the floor of an open town meeting, a proposed charter change incorporating the same language must be warned for an Australian ballot vote.
The board is already contemplating a package of charter changes, but missed a key deadline for including them on the Town Meeting Day ballot. While pursuing a charter change for a local option tax would likely delay implementation of the tax until next year, it would necessitate an Australian ballot vote.
The alternative would be to press ahead with a March 1 floor vote on a proposal that has predictably drawn fire from some in the business community and would be subject to the whims of a comparatively small sliver of the local electorate.
“That’s a choice for the board,” Hadley said, setting the stage for today’s special meeting, which is scheduled at 5:30 p.m. at the town offices on Shed Road.
Pub 1/29/16 Times Argus by David Delcore
BERLIN — The Select Board has officially pressed “pause” on a plan to ask voters to create a 1 percent sales tax, in Berlin, unanimously agreeing to rescind their week-old decision to include the question on the Town Meeting Day warning that was approved during a special meeting Wednesday.
Unwilling to roll the dice on how the measure might fare on the floor of what has, in recent years, been a poorly attended town meeting, and unable to legally include the article on the lengthy list of questions voters will decide by Australian ballot, the board agreed to abandon plans for a March 1 vote.
“I feel that this topic is important enough that as many voters as possible should be given the opportunity to weigh in on it,” Chairman Ture Nelson said, suggesting that simply wouldn’t be the case at town meeting.
“While I still fully support the local option tax in Berlin, and feel it’s a good direction for the town to go, I think, due to the historically low turnout we’ve had for the floor vote in past years, that it would be beneficial for us to take a step back and not act on it at … this time,” he said.
When it comes to the alternative tax proposal, failure on the floor of an open town meeting — poorly attended or not — would likely have been fatal for the foreseeable future. Rather than risk that, Nelson recommended the board pursue a strategy that sidesteps a belatedly discovered requirement that most “public questions” — the proposed local option tax among them — be voted on the floor of an open town meeting.
By reframing the newly scrapped question involving the local option tax as a proposed amendment to the town’s charter, Nelson said an Australian ballot vote could be warned in conjunction with the general election in November. By law, charter changes must be approved using the day-long voting system Berlin has long used to settle local elections and, more recently, adopt municipal and school budget proposals.
Though the board maintained, and still believes, that Berlin is among the communities that aren’t required to change their charters in order to enact a local option tax, Nelson said that now appears to be the “cleanest way” to test support for an idea that was soundly rejected during a flawed vote 15 years ago.
With other proposed charter changes already in the works, Nelson recommended adding the 1 percent sales tax to the mix in anticipation of a November vote.
“I think that would be a good time to act on the option tax as part of the charter change process,” he said.
According to Nelson, turnout for the general election in November will likely be even higher than the town will see on March 1 — a fact he listed as one of the advantages associated with the board’s change of plans.
Nelson said the delay would also give the board more time to explain a tax that, according to its conservative estimates would raise roughly $420,000 a year and take some of the pressure off of the local property tax.
The article that was stripped from the warning indicated all proceeds from the proposed 1 percent tax on sales would be used to “lower property taxes” — a commitment Nelson said could be written into the proposed charter language.
Nelson said the strategy, which was ultimately embraced by the board, would also resolve any lingering doubts about whether a charter change similar to those being proposed in both Barre and Montpelier this year was actually needed in Berlin.
Board member Jeremy Hansen, who has been the most vocal proponent of the local sales tax, said Nelson’s arguments were compelling.
“I think that makes a lot of sense,” he said of the proposed November vote on a tax that has generated predictable pushback from some in the business community.
Owners of the Berlin Mall are on that list and a week after their lawyer tried unsuccessfully to discourage the board from agreeing to schedule a Town Meeting Day, one of them — Ken Simon — urged them not to cancel it.
Simon didn’t have a change of heart about the proposed tax, but Town Administrator Dana Hadley told the board that he called before Wednesday’s meeting to say that if the question is going to be asked, he favored an open meeting format that would give the mall a chance to “plead its case” before voters make their decision.
Board members didn’t discount Simon’s request, but their shared desire to put the question to a town-wide trumped it.
Though pursuing a charter change guarantees a vote by Australian ballot, Nelson said it is a more time-consuming process than the one the board initially anticipated. Regardless of the result, he said it would be worth the wait, because it would provide the board with the clearest reading of what townspeople think about what has become an increasingly popular idea.
A successful vote in November would require waiting for the charter change to work its way through the Legislature next year and probably postpone implementation of the new tax until July 1, 2017.
The board’s initial plan to bypass the charter change could have led to the tax being implemented as early as this April.
The only other option would have been to again ask voters at town meeting to approve all public questions by Australian ballot and subsequently warning an up-or-down vote on the proposed tax without changing the charter. That two-step process could conceivably have expedited things, but would have hinged on voters agreeing to do something they refused to six years ago when they agreed to preserve what little is left of their traditional town meeting.
Nelson said he favored a more direct approach.
“I think (proposing a) charter (change) would be the cleanest, easiest way to do this,” he said.
George Malek, a long-time critic of local option taxes who recently retired as president of the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce, wasn’t quite sure what to make of the board’s decision to abandon plans for a Town Meeting Day vote.
“Thank you, I think?” an uncertain Malek told the board.
“It’s not really ‘thank you,’” Nelson replied. “It (the tax proposal) is still there, it (the vote) is just going to be a little bit later.”
The board’s decision with respect to the option tax doesn’t leave much for voters to decide on the floor of this year’s town meeting. Other than electing a moderator, and approving a plan to pay property taxes in quarterly installment, the only other question on the warning is a 10-year tax exemption the Capital City Grange has requested for its property on Route 12. In exchange for the requested exemption the grange is offering Berlin residents free use of the hall “a minimum of two times a month.”
Pub 1/25/16 Times Argus / Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce
One of the great events for the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce is our annual meeting. This is the one opportunity that we have all year to collectively meet and celebrate all of the successes that we have enjoyed from the previous year. And what a year it was.
Perhaps the most significant event was an announcement. George Malek said that “it’s time to say good-bye.” Following 37 years of dynamic leadership, George told the board that he planned to retire at the end of the year. The chamber will never be the same. The Chamber has accomplished so much under George’s dedicated guidance that it is difficult to know where to begin. The Chamber today is a reflection of the vision and direction brought by George. The central Vermont business community owes a debt of gratitude to George and for that, we all thank you, George.
The chamber kicked off 2015 at the annual meeting with a presentation on development, focusing on the risks, rewards and motivation to build, renovate and own commercial space. That in turn has led to discussions at the Capitol concerning challenges that developers face. New talks have recently begun centered on extending the expiration dates in future permits that expire when an appeal is still pending, thereby requiring the applicant to re-apply.
Our annual legislative breakfast was a tremendous success as was our annual golf outing. Between our mixers and educational seminars chamber members had a variety of opportunities to network and grow their businesses.
This year’s annual meeting will be on Feb. 11 with a topical focus. We will be presenting “The 1 Percent Sting: Facts and Impacts of Local Option Taxes.” We will be exploring who the real “winners” and “losers” are when communities adopt local option taxes. Among those expressing their thoughts will be Jeff Blow from Jet Service Envelope Company in Berlin; Brian Cain from the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Montpelier; Greg Isabelle, president of Barre Electric and Lighting Supply in Berlin; and Mike Woodfield from First in Fitness, located in Berlin and Montpelier.
At the annual meeting, we will be thanking Leslie Sanborn from R & L Archery who is completing her second term as board chair and Gary Hass from World Publications who has completed his term on the board of directors. Lindel James from the Center for Leadership Skills has been nominated to serves as board chair. Those nominated to serve on the board include Joe Choquette from Downs, Rachlin, Martin, Cody Patno from Noyle W. Johnson Insurance and Amy White from Key Bank.
I invite you all to join us at our annual meeting. It will take place from 7 to 9 a.m. at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Montpelier. Please call us at 802-229-5711 for tickets ($35 per person) or for more information.
William Moore is the president of the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce.


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